Anime Corner: Recovery of an MMO Junkie Review

Blog MMO Junkie Review Title

Because coincidence is the fuel of Romantic Comedy!

What’s the Story?

Morioka Moriko is a thirty-year-old single woman who has just quit her job. Tired of the outside world, she shuts herself up in her apartment and plays this new online game she’s found. At first everything is fine as far as she’s concerned, she’s made her character, Hayashi, a male character, and has fun with her guild mates. She especially gets on with fellow player Lily, a cute girl character. One day though Moriko is forced to go outside and literally bumps into a handsome young man Sakurai. The real world is slowly invading Moriko’s NEET lifestyle and from more directions than she knows. You see Sakurai is actually the person playing Lily.

The Review

I’m really glad I found this series. Now admittedly at first I wasn’t all that interested in watching this show, I’m not much of an online gamer, so that side of the story didn’t interest me, and the title was a turnoff for me. I kept imaging that this was going to turn into something about Internet addiction, more interested in decrying the online world than anything else. Lucky this show has none of that and is instead a sweet, funny and heart-warming tale of two people finding one another. I’m so glad I came back to give this show a chance.

As for the story it’s a pretty simple one, we get introduced to Moriko and Sakurai and then its basically the two of them bumbling around until they learn exactly who the other one is and that’s really all this needs to be. Both Moriko and Sakurai are really sweet and fun characters and they’re very much perfect for one another. Moriko is shy and nervous and although we’re never given too many details about what happened at her previous employment it’s pretty obvious that her self-worth has been ground into the dust. She mumbles and hides her way through life, permanently embarrassed by herself, whereas the character she plays online is energetic and fun-loving and I feel a much truer representation of Moriko if she can just shed her self-doubt.

Not that Sakurai is much better. Sure he’s holding down a job and has a social life with at least one co-worker, but when he actually has to speak to Moriko he turns into nervous gibbering mess. He doesn’t want trouble or angst, he just want to pretend to be a cute girl and spent way too much money on outfits for said character. (I’d suggest that Moriko should keep an eye on her wardrobe, but 1. she doesn’t have a wardrobe and 2. the last episode is pretty good indicator that Sakurai is more interested in dressing her in cute clothes).

Both of these characters don’t believe their good enough for the other one and that’s what makes it so frustrating as even when they do run into one another in the real world they don’t come anywhere near admitting their feelings for one another without the other characters giving them a hard shove in the right direction. That being said their nervous and embarrassed reaction is often hilarious. They have great comic timing. The rest of the characters don’t really get much development and we hardly get to see any of them in the real world. I think probably the two characters that get the most screen time outside of Moriko and Sakurai are Sakurai’s co-worker who is the most active force in getting our two leads together and the guy who works at the convenience store who is the confidant of both leads in the online world. If the character doesn’t help move the plot forward, they don’t get any attention I’m afraid.

That is another thing about the plot of this show. It moves really fast. I mean it doesn’t take long at all for one of our leads to work out who the other one is in the real world and then the build up to the big confession. Yet the series never feels like its losing anything and the you still get the sense of build up and tension as we lead to the two main characters discovering one another. It is annoying though, this series is only ten episodes long and I feel there’s so much more that could be done with it and explored, and yet that ending is just perfect. Dammit I just want more! In the end it’s not about getting away from an online life, as all of the characters genuinely enjoy their time in the game, but it’s about finding someone that makes you want to be better.

The only real downside of this show is the sheer amount of consequences necessary to pull off the plot. Moriko and Sakurai not only have to be into the same game, they have to meet one another online and then meet in the real world. I do think the show is pushing it when it reveals that Moriko and Sakurai actually knew one another in another online game years before. I tend to let it slid though because this is a romantic comedy and a lot of romantic comedies are based on huge coincidences that would never happen in real life. If you can let that slide as well, then you’ll enjoy this show too.

The Verdict

In the end Recovery of an MMO Junkie is a sweet and funny tale of two awkward and self-defeating people managing to find one another, first in an online world, then in the real one. It’s bright, colourful and cheerful, with great comic timing and a pair of leads that you’re just dying to see get together. The plot moves fast and while it doesn’t spare much time for the side character, it keeps the focus where it should. I only wish there were more episodes of this show.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

 

Anime Corner Urahara Review

Blog Urahara Review Title

Let’s get creative indeed!

What’s the Story?

Three girls have decided to run a shop together were they will sell all the cutest things. Rito is the creative of the group, coming up with drawings and designs that they can put on the things they sell. Mari fancies herself as an idol and knows all the latest fashions and popular things and Kotoko is the researcher who tends to get a little bit obsessive about anything and everything. However their happy little dream is interrupted when aliens invade! They are the Scoopers and since they have no creativity of their own they’ve decided to steal it from other places! After coming across a strange girl and her talking fried shrimp (just roll with it), the girls gain the power to transform and do battle against the Scoopers. Can the girls protect the town and make sure everything stays cute and creative? No, no they can’t, but they can give us an oddly dark and disturbing turn about halfway through the series, so there’s that.

The Review

Okay let’s just go right at this, this is not a good series. I can’t really recommend it to people and yet there were moments when I found myself genuinely enjoying myself, however brief those moments were. Despite everything there are some good themes and a decent message buried in this show, you just have to sift through a lot of candy-coloured rubbish to get to it.

Speaking of candy-coloured, let’s start with the art of the show. A lot of this series looks like someone’s doodlings. The line work is very rough, the designs for the characters and surroundings varying from really overly simplified with hardly any detail to cluttered messes were it looks like the artists just shoved everything they could into the design. Yet, the design kind of works for the show, it’s not always good to look at and some times it barely even moves, but this hodgepodge, cheap style suits the world this anime builds. It’s bright and colourful and very much about someone’s creativity just running riot. Someone has had an incredibly fun time just drawing whatever the hell they wanted, which actually ties into the main message of the show (which I’ll come back to). It’s very eye catching, I’ll give it that, whether that’ actually any good or not comes down to personal taste.

As for the characters, while I like them I don’t think they’re, well…good. A lot of the time the characters stick to their archetypes and more often than not they’re just ciphers for the show’s message. Rito likes to draw, Mari is fashion-conscious and Kotoko is a walking exposition machine. It doesn’t help that a lot of their jokes and dialogue tend to fall flat on their face. Yet, despite all of that when we get to the middle of the anime, which I tend to think of as the ‘good’ section of the series I found myself really invested. It resonated with me because what this show is about is creativity. Rito and the other girls just want to create things and have fun, but there’s pressures that come with that, chief among them being will people like your work? Also it raises several interesting questions. Are you being creative if you just copy someone? Can copying lead to creativity? How do you learn to make stuff if you don’t start by copying somebody else to learn what to do? Frankly this stuff is a deeper and more interesting than I was expecting from this series.

Watching these girls struggle between being creative and being popular is when this show is at its best, even more so when the girls turn on one another and the true, nasty side of the Scoopers is revealed. It isn’t without its problems though; one thing that always plagues this series is that a lot of it is stuck on repeat. The first half of this series is pretty much a constant cycle of the Scoopers turn up, girls transform, beat the Scoopers, rinse and repeat. Now that is fine in and of itself, this is a magical girl series and they have a particular formula. Where this falls down is the fact that the Scoopers are just so boring, their designs aren’t interesting and they never really pose much a threat (until we get to their real evil scheme). Honestly the eclectic designs of the show can only carry it for a couple of episodes at most.

One of the other symptoms of the repeat cycle is that this show will keep hammering in its questions and themes until your ears are bleeding. Though I do regard the middle section of this anime as the best, the whole thing could have been done in half the time if they just stopped repeating the dialogue again and again. There were times I wanted to bash my head into the keyboard just to make it stop, which is something a show should never aim for as an audience reaction. It gets even worse in the last few episodes of the series and they even try to make a joke out of it with the fried shrimp. I will give the series some credit though in regards to the ending, and spoilers for anyone who cares, when the girls reject the power that lets them transform, they stick with that decision. There’s no last minute transformation or deus ex machina, how they get out of the situation is one that works with everything that has been set up, so points for that. That dreadful scribble masquerading as a fried shrimp loses all those points though.

The Verdict

Urahara is not a good show. The characters are really just there to spout dialogue about the theme and message, often on repeat and while the questions it raises are interesting ones, I don’t think that’s enough. The animation is often static and messy, though it can be visually interesting in its own weird way. I can’t recommend you watch this show, but if there’s anything that catches your interest in what I’ve described, then give it a go. You might like it, you probably won’t, but that’s up to you.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

Anime Corner: Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Review

Blog Yokai Apartment Life Review Title

I’m not sure Elegant is the right word.

What’s the Story?

Inaba is just about to start high school and decides it’s finally time to get out of his uncle’s house and move into a place of his own. Unfortunately the dorms he’s made arrangements to stay in suddenly burns down. Unwilling to go back to his uncle’s, Inaba searches for a place to live, but can’t afford anywhere, that is until a young boy points him towards an apartment building. The apartment appears ideal, true the building is quite old and a bit strange, but the rent is cheap and it’s not too far from the school. Of course there is a catch. The majority of the other residents are…well…monsters. Ghosts and other spirits straight out of folklore, but despite Inaba’s initial concern the spirits turn out to be really friendly and welcoming. At last Inaba feels at home and with the wealth of experience around him he might just be able to navigate high school and even adolescence.

The Review

It’s hard to know where to start with this series. Thinking back over the past twenty-six episodes it hasn’t done anything all that terrible, but at the same time nothing really stands out either. This series feels pretty middle of the road, though I suppose that could also be down to my own expectations. It’s not like I had any great idea of what I was going to get with this series (I tend to jump into shows blind and see what happens), but the anime led me to think it was one thing and then it wasn’t. To me it feels like this series couldn’t make up its mind. It starts off as a gentle, slice of life story about a guy who’s recently lost his parents and is trying to come to terms with that. The ghosts are there to help him open up and grow as a person. The thing is, that storyline ends about a quarter of the way through the series.

After that the series just tends to meander around the place, having Inaba interact with various strange spirits and events while also dealing with everyday life. As a slice of life it sort of works, it’s nice and calming and Inaba does deal with some interesting issues, most of which are themed around growing up without recycling the usual pat life lessons most shows tend to trot out. No, instead we’ve got Inaba learning that people have more sides to them than they show, sometimes kindness can be more harmful than anything else and other such lessons that make him a better person.

I do get the feeling that this series wanted to be more than a slice of life though, or maybe that was my expectations leading me down a different path again. See at one point in the series Inaba gets a magic book that lets him summon various spirits. At this point, as well as with Inaba’s training to better use magic, it had me thinking the series was going to become some sort of action fantasy. It doesn’t help that the series keeps setting up scenarios like this plot thread where there’s a teacher who is clearing having issues and then he gets up getting possessed by this malicious spirit. Perfect, so Inaba uses his magic to fight and exorcise the guy right? Wrong. Inaba doesn’t really do much, he uses magic a little, but most of the spirits at his disposal are really useless and it takes another character to save the teacher.

The series has an odd relationship with threat and resolution that I’m not really sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, I kind of like that Inaba can’t solve every problem. It’s a very mature approach and goes to show that not every problem has an easy, if any, resolution. On the other hand it does beg the question, what exactly is the point of Inaba outside of being our viewpoint character? It also means that some plot threads just feel completely unsatisfactory in how they end, which again is true to life. There’s a plot thread that runs through the later half of the series that keeps getting built up and up and up, only for another character to set in and take it off Inaba’s hands and I still don’t feel like that’s the right answer. The girl still has issues and hasn’t dealt with them properly. Damn this series frustrates me sometimes.

One of the other problems this series has it that it is so slow. Despite Inaba’s continual growth, it never really feels like much has happened. It isn’t until you reach the last episode and we get a look back at the very beginning that you realise just how much Inaba has changed, despite the fact the that he’s done nothing but eat with the ghosts and stand in paddling pools. I think it comes to down to the lack of any real conflict or threat to the series. Despite things that it builds up and even times when there’s a momentary problem, it never lasts or feels like it’s going to have any great affect on the apartment. Life at the apartment carries on no matter what, which I guess could be one of its messages.

The Verdict

In the end Elegant Yokai Apartment Life is an okay series, but doesn’t do much to stand out. It does talk about some interesting subjects and handles them in a mature and almost true to life way, but unfortunately that means many of the challenges and conflicts our characters face lack a satisfactory conclusion. The series is also slow and lacks any hard-hitting comedy or action to really keep your interest. If you’re after something to just have playing in the background, this is a gentle and very calm series, so if that’s what you’re after maybe give this a try.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

Anime Corner: Code: Realise – Guardian of Rebirth Review

Blog Code Realise Review Title

I think there’s been a translation error, this seems more like acid than poison.

What’s the Story?

Cardia has a peculiar affliction, anything she touches melts as if her skin was acid. Because of this she has spent her whole life alone in a mansion, feared by the outside world as a monster and even her own father never comes to see her. Only the specially treated clothes she’s wearing stops her from melting through everything around her. Then one day the British army arrives to take Cardia into custody, but she’s stolen by the gentleman thief Lupin (Huh? That name sounds familiar). Anyway Cardia is whisked away to another mansion where several handsome young men have learned of an impending terrorist attack on Great Britain, and Cardia’s father is man behind it! Can this harem of young men help Cardia save the country? (Hang on a second here, Frankenstien, Van Helsing, Sherlock Holmes? Oh, this is one of those shows).

The Review

I have to admit I wasn’t really expecting much from this show, in fact I only really decided to watch it because I thought there might be one or two cool steampunk designs I could look at (and there were a few). Also it could be fun watching Frankenstein and Van Helsing hang out. The rest of the anime though wasn’t all that appealing at first glance. For starters there’s the interpretation of famous fictional and actual characters from the past, which have clearly only been picked for their name value. The characters that appear in this series are nothing like their original counterparts, which actually does get really funny when we get to the likes of Captain Nemo because that guy is just hilarious. Outside of that though, if you’re after accurate interpretations then move along.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like the characters, I actually do, I just don’t think they have the right names. Lupin and the others, while not the most in depth characterisations, are fun people to be around. They have their quirks, but that’s not all they are. They each have their own back-stories and motivations and while the story doesn’t go into that much detail, it goes into enough that you get a sense of who these people are. I like these guys. Also I’m very relieved about the harem side of the show, which was another worrying aspect. In my experience harem shows have a tendency to distract from the plot because the show will spend far too much time setting up romances that are never going to go anywhere because you know the show will never go all in and pick one romance option over all the others. Well, that’s what I thought at least. Turns out Code: Realise has made it it’s mission to surprise me at every turn and while it does have a harem set up, it chooses to focus on the budding love between Lupin and Cardia. You really want to see these two find a happy ending somehow, the gentleman thief and the girl who can’t be touched (I’ve seen stranger romances).

Speaking of Cardia, she is the biggest surprise of the series. You’d expect her to be a damsel, surrounded by guys who will do anything for her and that highly impractical dress that is her main outfit, but no. She’s there, getting involved, trading in her skirt for something more practical and body slamming goons left right and centre. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like she’s a super badass or anything and she does end up as a bit of damsel by the end of the series, but I appreciate that she actually does something. Endearing is the best word to describe Cardia, she’s had a hard life and very little confidence in herself and it’s great to see that confidence grow to the point where she will happily throw herself into danger if it will save someone she cares about. I like characters that are proactive.

As for the rest of the series, unfortunately, it’s kind of average. The story doesn’t do anything terrible, well outside of maybe setting up Queen Victoria as this tyrannical monster and never punishing her for it in any way. Outside of that we’ve got various hijinks with Lupin, Cardia and the gang getting involved with the other famous characters and trying to learn more about Cardia’s father. Character wise there’s some interesting stuff as the gang deal with their emotions and pasts, but action wise it doesn’t get too interesting until we reach the actual terrorist plot at the end. Even that basically boils down to a mad scientist who has lost faith in the world and it ends pretty easily. It’s the characters that pull this anime through, I’ve surprised myself with just how much I like them and care for them.

The Verdict

All in all Code: Realise is a surprising little anime. It’s not the greatest and doesn’t have the most revolutionary story, but it’s got it where it counts, the heart of its characters. I care about these people and I want to see them get their happy endings, Cardia especially. For someone that should have been a damsel in distress character, she gets awfully involved in events. Not as bad as I thought it was going to be.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates MOSTLY every Friday.

Anime Corner: Juni Taisen: Zodiac War Review

Blog Juni Taisen Review Title

Battle of the impractically dressed animal themed warriors!

What’s the Story?

Twelve warriors gather for a battle of the Ages! Each is themed after an animal of the zodiac and has gained fame from every battlefield across this war torn world. From the twin brothers of the Snake and the Dragon to the drunken warrior of the Tiger or the despicable gun-totting Boar, all of them are talented killers with unique gifts. The prize they seek? Their heart’s desire, granted to the sole survivor. No one is safe and unless a victor is decided in time all of the contestants may end up dying. But why has an entire city been emptied to host this contest? And just who are the shadowy benefactors that have arranged this meeting and just what do they get out of it?

The Review

Well, this went downhill fast. This anime started out pretty promising, the animation was good, the fights were good and although the story starts off in a very dark and violent place it does it in a compelling way, because if it’s going to start there, just where is it going to finish? I even liked how there was no main character, even if that did set a few alarm bells ringing. Spoilers, the character that we spent the first episode following and learning about in flashback dies at the end of episode one. Now in one way that’s brilliant. It really throws us in the audience off balance as we suddenly have no one to root for and it means that just about anyone can die, which instantly ramps up the tension and excitement in seeing each battle unfold. A lot of tournaments like this lose their punch because we’re following a main character and we know that no matter what, that person will live. It dulls the sense of danger.

However killing off the main character is a double-edged sword, because if you’re making it that absolutely anyone can die, then why exactly should we in the audience care about any of this? If there’s no one to root for, no one to invest in, then what’s our reason to care about what happens? Most of these people are going to die anyway. This fear did go through my head as soon as I saw episode one and unfortunately the series walks straight into it. As soon as we learn about any character they’re killed off almost instantly (and it doesn’t help that the episode titles give hints as to who is about to bite it, I’ll come back to this in a minute). I quickly stopped caring about these people and whatever their deal is. In fact the only characters I actually care about in the end of it are Tiger and Ox, mainly because we get to see their whole story play out across several episodes. Also watching Tiger’s rise and fall from an innocent and honourable young warrior to a drunken beast is a good story and her inevitable end actually brought a tear to my eye. Damn it Ox remember her!

One of the reasons this anime really fails is that it gets boring. I mean if I can’t invest in the majority of the characters the least the show could do is give me some breath-taking action to distract me, but the whole show seems to run out of steam before we hit the midway point. Not only does the animation quality lose some of its sleekness in the later episodes, but it commits a crime that no fighting tournament anime should ever do, it becomes predictable. Not only does it give hints in the titles (told you I’d get back to this), but there’s even spoilers given in the end credits after a point as they start giving out the order of the deaths. The show just systematically takes away every reason to care about what’s going on in the fights. You have hardly any chance to get to know anyone and you know exactly how it’s going to end and practically when. There’s no surprise and when we’re got no one to invest in for the whole series and no longer any stunning animation, you need something to keep the audiences’ attention.

The only reason I stuck with this series is that once we got to the halfway point I changed my mindset on how I was viewing this show. I don’t care about the battle, outside of the segment following Tiger and Ox, it has nothing to interest me. But, if you look at this series as an anthology series, it’s a little bit better. Yeah, sure, it keeps getting interrupted by these weirdoes in comical outfits slicing at one another, but the flashback sequences are a lot more interesting. Looking at these various characters mind sets and how they view a world that constantly seems to be at war. Heck even the idea of twelve warrior families and the fact that genuine warriors, be they noble souls or heartless mercenaries, are allowed on to the battlefield with proper soldiers (I realise mercenaries probably turn up in wars all the time, but I don’t hear so much about samurai-like guys walking about the place).

There is a lot of stuff that does need explaining though. Such as where exactly all all unusual characters get their special abilities from, I mean some are explained like the guy who got his body modified to be the ultimate shield, but how about the one who can control birds? How’d she get her powers? Also where does the guy running this tournament get his powers from? And how exactly can he grant any wish? I realise the answers to these questions aren’t really all that important, they’re just background details that would fill out the world, but it would be nice to know. In the end this is a series of stories about war and the very worst of humanity and how that affects people, whether they succumb to it, or manage to find a way to rise above it.

The Verdict

All in all Juni Taisen is not a good series. It’s has nothing really to invest in, the characters taking part in the battle die as soon as we get to know them, the order of deaths is so predictable it’s actually spelled out for you and the action isn’t intense or flashy enough to distract from the boredom that sets in around the halfway mark. There are some good stories in there, and some good characters, but you have to slog through the rest of the series to get to them. The flashbacks and the world outside of the battle are by far the most interesting aspects of this series. Unfortunately there’s just not enough of that, I’d declare yourself out of this tournament.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

Anime Corner: Magical Circle Guru-Guru Review

Blog Magical Circle Review Title

A Heart in Love!

What’s the Story?

Nike is a young boy who wants nothing but an ordinary life, that plan is completely sunk when Nike’s hero obsessed parents learn that the Demon King is set to awaken and there’s a call for heroes once more! And so Nike sets out on a journey, against his will, and at his first stop meets the young witch Kukuri. She is the last surviving member of the Migu Migu Tribe and is the only one that can seal the Demon King away using a strange magic known as Guru Guru. Kukuri has spent all this time waiting for a hero and at last one has arrived! Now they set out on a harrowing journey where they will face creepy old men and their terrible dancing! Super cheesy dialogue! And more poop jokes than you can shake a stick at! Wait…what?

The Review

I’m…I’m…I’m going to miss this show! I didn’t even know that I needed something like this and now that it’s over I don’t think I can cope. I’ve spent the past 24 episodes in the company of something that was smart, funny and incredibly cute. Right from the start this show has had me, whether it’s poking fun at old style rpg adventures or just the absurd creatures and events are our characters find themselves crossing paths with, it has always found a way to make me smile. Not that comedy is this shows only strength, the quiet, gentle little romance that grows between Nike and Kukuri is beautiful to watch. Watching these two kids slowly come to terms with their feelings and even having the fate of the whole world resting on one fateful confession has been heart-melting.

I think the animation style is the best example I have to sum up this series. At first glance it’s cute and simple, there’s not an overabundance of detail in the drawings, but when the shows needs it, the whole show transforms. When we hit those big action moments or big drama moments, the animation comes alive in a way it didn’t before with some absolutely astounding motion. It takes these simple little character models and makes them move like they’re actually alive. It is breath-taking to watch.

This mentality of there being more to it than first appearances runs deep in the show. Though comedy is the main aim of this series, and also one of the best elements of the show, there is more to it. I genuinely care about these characters. They’re not just the butt of a series of jokes, they have emotions and troubles all their own and they develop across the series. Heck, even some of the villains in this series get a character arc. This is even more of an achievement when you realise just how big the cast is for this show. It feels like there are hundreds of supporting characters and they’re an eclectic mix of weirdoes and crazy people and yet they all have their own bizarre charm. It is one of the joys of each episode of this show; just what insanity is going to turn up this week.

Even the world and its magic has more depth than I was expecting. The mark of a good world, in my opinion, is one that has its own rules and its own beliefs. It adds a level to the world that makes it more believable and this world has a fair few religions or their equivalent as well as several prophecies to add that depth. Sure they don’t get explored all that much, but they’re there. Also the magic, despite being able to do pretty much anything, still has its rules, which adds again to that believability. I also really like the fact that the magic is tied into childhood and growing up. It comes from pure imagination and can be strengthened or weakened by the caster’s emotions.

There’s not really much more I can think to say about this series. It’s kind of perfect and just what I needed.  I love it. It’s great. You should go watch it.

The Verdict

In the end Magical Circle is a little bundle of joy. It’s consistently funny, smart (if occasionally juvenile) and it has a big beating heart when it comes to its characters. There’s a depth to the world and story that may not be expecting when you first see the simple character models. It’s a loving poke at all the old-school rpg fantasies and you should just go watch. Go. Right now.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

 

First Impressions Autumn 2017 part 2

And we’re back! Yay. (Please let there be good shows. Please let there be good shows).

Dies Irae

Okay, I have no idea what’s going on in this anime. Episode 0 was one of the biggest messes I’ve had the privilege to see in animation. There’s this bunch of nazis, one of whom is bored with life, and a psychic dude. There’s some weird people getting in a fight for some reason. Then they have superpowered blonde nazi guy now want to destroy the world. Flash forward to modern day Japan and the super nazis are high school students? Are they immortal? Do they get reincarnated? Time Travel? I don’t know. We’ve got a main character who’s afraid of knifes and may or may not have butchered his family when he was little. He keeps having dreaming about this weird girl who sings cheery songs about blood and then he gets his head chopped off. And there’s this girl who’s his friend and also has a tunnel going into this apartment…I’m lost.

Because we didn’t get enough death and violence last week, now we have a woman happily singing about blood. I watch some weird stuff, you know. Saying that, I don’t actually mind this series. I mean it’s a mess and a bad show, but after stuff like King’s Game my bar is set really low at the minute. I do think Episode 0 should be skipped, it makes no sense and will only confuse you. The episodes after that are kind of generic set up and pretty slow-paced, which does give the feeling that the series is already spinning its wheels and we still don’t know that much about what’s going on. The characters aren’t horrible and action we have had is decent. The songs for the opening and closing are epic, the opening especially gives me 90s anime vibes, which is fun. If there were more goods shows this season I’d probably drop this, but as it stands I’m going to stick around, if only to find out what’s going on.

Black Clover

In a world where magic is valued above all else it kind of sucks when you have no magic whatsoever. That’s the situation facing by Asta, a young orphan who dreams of becoming the Wizard King, the most powerful and respected of all magic users. Despite his lack of magic he trains every day (and screams every other sentence), but it’s just not enough. Until the day when the villagers are given their grimoires (books that enhance a person’s magic), when Asta summons a mysterious black grimoire that can nullify other people’s magic and summon a really big sword. Is this enough for him to obtain the title of Wizard King? Or is it one dream too far for a boy with nothing.

I realise this anime has been anticipated by some, and while I’ve heard of the series before, I literally know nothing about it. So far it’s not bad. It’s your typical shonen stuff, nothing that breaks the mould too far with every cliche from the underdog who suddenly discovers he has a hidden power to an all powerful rival. The series takes its time to get going, spending the majority of episode 2 on a flashback (though I do appreciate it fleshing out the relationship between Asta and Yuno). It’s just I’m waiting for this series to impress me and it’s taking it’s sweet time getting to any thing that will grab me. Another thing that’s putting me off is the voice actor for Asta. He tends to shout every other line and that combined with an already hyperactive and kind of annoying character is grating pretty quickly. I’m hoping he’ll mellow out in time. That seems to be the thing with this series, how much time am I willing to give it? A little more is the only answer I have right now.

Urahara

Aliens out to steal our culture! Magical Girls! Food falling from the sky! A talking fried shrimp? I’m sorry. I appear to have taken some hard drugs. No, my mistake, this show is just insane. Three high school girls plan on opening their own store, indulging in all things fashion, food and all together cute. But then! Aliens invade, intending on stealing anything of cultural significance for themselves. With the help of a mysterious girl and a talking fired shrimp (seriously what?) they gain the magical powers necessary to defend their home!

Okay, I just want to say again, this show is weird, not the weirdest I’ve ever seen, but it’s up there. It’s such a random collection of elements all loosely strung together. Saying that the narrative is actually pretty simple, with the girls slowly learning about their powers and their situation while facing a monster of the week. I do like that things that happened last week have a knock on effect the following week and the situation isn’t just resolved immediately, but the enemies they fight could stand to be a bit more interesting. All the series tends to have a very relaxed pace that makes it doubly hard to find any level of threat in proceedings. It does look pretty with lots of pastel colours and soft lines, though I’m mostly watching it to see what it’s going to throw at us next so we’ll see where it goes.

Code: Realize – Guardian of Rebirth

Cardia cannot touch anyone or anything without it melting due to a toxin her body produces (I don’t think this series understands how toxins work). Isolated for most of her life and feared as a monster Cardia hasn’t had a good life. Then the British Army turns up to take her away. Luckily she’s rescued by a gentleman thief, a mister…Lupin (oh yeah, we’re going there). Joining up with a group of good looking young men, Lupin and Cardia plan to take down a mysterious organisation known as Twligiht, who, with Cardia’s father, are planning a terrorist attack.

I had my doubts about this series going into it, but it’s not all that bad. Not great, but it could be a heck of a lot worse. With the design of the male characters and the fact that there was only one girl, I was fearing this would turn into a reverse harem, but so far it’s only pursuing one relationship between Cardia and Lupin, well as much as it’s possible to have a relationship with a girl that can’t be touched. I do much prefer a focussed relationship to one that is constantly trying to keep other possibilities open. Another fact that pleasantly surprised me was that Cardia is slowly becoming more proactive, joining in the missions and learning. With how passive and quiet she is at the beginning, I feared she’d be like that for the whole series. Also we get to play guess the historical figure and some nice steampunk designs.

Ancient Magus’ Bride

So far Chise’s life has been, in a word, horrible. Able to see things that no one else can and with no one to explain just what it is she is, she has been passed from family member to member, friendless and unloved. It’s no wonder that she seriously considers suicide, though then she’s convinced to sell herself in slavery. You see Chise is a very rare creature, one loved by spirits and magical beings, in fact they will do anything for her, even if those gifts have been more of a curse throughout her life. She’s bought by a powerful mage, Elias, but he’s not after a slave. No he wants an apprentice, and quiet possibly a bride. Has Chise finally found a place were she’s welcomed and loved?

Thank God. I mean really, if it wasn’t for this, Zodiac War and Food Wars this season I think I’d go mad. I do have to say though, this is the weirdest start to a romance I’ve come across. First bought, then told you’re going to marry someone. Just sayin’ it’s kind of creepy. Elias is a very fun character though and clearly has genuine feelings for Chise, even if I think he’s got a lot to learn about humans (such as how it’s not a good idea to bathe someone you’ve just met, especially a young girl. You’ll get on to a list with that kind of behaviour). This anime is warm and sweet, with a little bit of something for everyone. I like how magic is both something wonderful and extremely dangerous at the same time. The biggest draw for me though is that this series is friggin’ beautiful. The colours, the textures, the way everything flows so naturally, but more than anything it’s heart. Breath taking is the only word suitable for this series.

Evil or Live

A new illness is spreading throughout the younger generation, “Internet Addiction”. But fear not dear young mind, for the government has set up a rehabilitation camps to help you. There you will enjoy panoramic views of barbed wire fences, daily beatings and the chance to become an abuser yourself! Technology is forbidden so do remember to report any individuals you suspect to your nearest guard or appointed discipline officers. Strip searches are mandatory (especially for the girls).

Right, well, I now want to kill everyone in this place. That was the point, right?

Haoliners Animation League doesn’t have a good track record with anime, for me at least. I’ve checked out several of their shows, all with interesting premises and really poor execution. Outside of the odd decision to show all the episodes in wide screen, this is a fairly decent looking show, I even like the intercut live action stuff from the first episode that gave it an independent grungy vibe. I wouldn’t want it with every show, but it’s a nice change for just one show. However this is where my praise ends and we descend into familiar territory, terrible writing and horrible characters. I don’t like a single character in this show, they’re either nasty or whiney and there’s no one I’m rooting for.  As for the writing I know this has an R rating, but this show feels like it was written by horny teenagers in their idea of what an R rated show would be. I do have to recommend episode two though for a moment of such hilarity, yet I don’t know if it’s intentional or not. It has to be seen to be believed.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.